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Associations between experiencing violence, owning a firearm for protection and firearm storage: a nationally representative analysis of US caregivers of teens


Objective To study the interaction between violence exposure and motivations for firearm ownership in their associations with firearm storage among caregivers of teens in the United States.

Methods In June–July 2020, we conducted a national survey of 2924 caregivers of US teens. We estimated multivariable logistic regressions among caregivers who owned a firearm (n=1095) to evaluate associations between the exposures of community violence, interpersonal violence, and firearm ownership motivations (protection motivations vs non-protection motivations) and the outcome of firearm storage patterns (locked and unloaded vs unlocked and/or loaded). We assessed for a potential interaction between violence exposures and motivations for firearm ownership in their associations with firearm storage.

Results We observed no associations between community (adjusted OR [aOR]: 0.86; 95% CI [0.55 to 1.36]) or interpersonal violence exposure (aOR: 0.60; 95% CI [0.22 to 1.65]) and firearm storage behaviours, and these associations did not vary according to firearm ownership motivations (relative excess risk due to interaction: −0.09 [−1.90 to 1.73]; −2.04 [−6.00 to 1.92]). Owning a firearm for protection was associated with increased odds of storing at least one firearm unlocked and/or loaded (aOR: 3.48; 95% CI [2.11 to 5.75]), and this association persisted across all strata of violence exposures (aORs: 1.51–3.98; 95% CIs [0.52 to 8.31]−[1.96 to 8.08]).

Conclusions The motivation to own a firearm for protection was associated with storing a firearm unlocked and/or loaded. The results suggest the associations between violence exposure and firearm storage are more complicated than anticipated because (1) exposure to violence was not associated with firearm storage practices and (2) motivations for firearm ownership do not appear to explain why people differ in firearm storage following violence exposure.

  • Violence
  • Firearm
  • Epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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